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Empire Ears Bravado


Recent Reviews

  1. ngoshawk
    Empire Ears Bravado-What’s all the fuss??!!
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Mar 24, 2019
    Pros - Fit.
    Good sound at this price.
    Solid Bass.
    Cons - You will want the Phantom or Legend after this...
    Empire Ears Bravado-What’s all the fuss??!! ($599usd)

    synX Crossover Technology

    Basically, this is a special crossover technology that provides more audio bands per driver. This will allow for lower distortion, Best Signal to Noise Ratio and an Ultra-Wide Frequency Bandwidth. More info about this tech in the following link: https://empireears.com/collections/x-line/products/bravado-universal-in-ear-monitors

    synX advantages

    synX powered in-ear monitors have remarkably high stereo separation and smooth phase response, leading to more dynamic realistic imaging and staging for both live and studio use. synX features a myriad of other advantages including:

    Ultra-Wide Frequency Bandwidth: The ESR produces a super-wide frequency range, offering listeners unparallel sound quality and details that bests even the most high-end headphones on the market.

    Best Signal-to-Noise: In order to ensure that all of the industry-leading sound quality is heard in your ears we’ve worked to create a unique combination of handpicked resistors, electrolytic capacitors, and filters in order to ensure the cleanest signal path possible while offering an exceptionally low noise floor.

    Low Distortion: Extremely low distortion means that every nuance in your mix will be reproduced faithfully without audible artifacts.

    Maximum Signal Transfer: Every driver and crossover is individually wired and insulated with 7-strand, UPOCC Litz wires to eliminate acoustic feedback and further soldered with highly conductive, ultra-pure silver and gold Mundorf Supreme for maximum signal transfer.

    Technical Specifications:

    2 Proprietary Drivers, Hybrid Design
    1 W9 Subwoofer, 1 Mid-High
    4-Way synX Crossover System
    A.R.C. Resonance Mitigation Technology
    Impedance: 22 ohms @ 1kHz
    Frequency Response: 8 Hz - 40kHz
    Sensitivity: 98dB @ 1kHz, 1mW
    26AWG UPOCC Litz Copper Cable, Handcrafted by Effect Audio

    Gear used/compared:

    Campfire Audio Jupiter (3.5se cable)
    64Audio U8 (2.5 bal cable)
    Simgot EM5 (3.5se cable)

    Thebit Opus #2
    Macbook Pro/iFi xDSD
    Shanling M5/iBasso PB3
    Questyle QP2R

    Songs used:

    Too bloody many to list all, but you want songs, so there you go:

    Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
    Coldplay-A Message
    Coldplay-White Shadows
    Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
    Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
    twenty one pilots-Trees
    twenty one pilots-Car Radio
    twenty one pilots-Heathens
    Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
    Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
    Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
    Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
    Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
    Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
    Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado

    twenty one pilots-Trench


    Coming in a rectangular black box, laden with the EE wings (looks like the pilot wings I got as a kid for flying, not a bad thing either…), there is a loop used to open the box sideways. Upon opening you are met with not one, but two black draw string bags of differing sizes. One big enough to fit the whole Pelican-style case in and the other small enough to harbor the IEM’s and a cable. A nice feature. A simple quick start guide, and cleaning cloth add to the cover.

    Under is the aforementioned pelican-style case wrought with two clasps. Nice and tight. Water-resistant as well. Opening said case reveals a very well protected interior with a foam cutout shaped to keep the IEM and cable protected in separate compartments. A bit cumbersome with the tips on, but it does work. I did find myself getting the Effect Audio Ares II cable somewhat tangled when trying to put the critter to sleep. But the main point is protection, and this is among the best protected I have seen. And the largest case I have seen for an IEM. I can live with it.


    Made from a singular molded piece, the quality is evident. Even if the black glossy sheen draws fingerprints. This is not the first black glossy IEM I have encountered, and ALL of them draw fingerprints. But that cleaning cloth can come in handy. With a solid 2-pin connection, there is nothing of note to discern the Bravado from the ESR save the slightly more organic curves and dips of the Bravado. Plus, the labeling present on the Bravado as well. The nozzle is fairly narrow and long-ish so fit is good. The Final-E tips are a bit of a pain to draw on to the nozzle, and the isolation, while excellent is a bit disconcerting to me. Almost like gaining altitude in a plane. But, once the music starts, all is forgotten.

    I have no qualms with either the fit or finish, both are top notch and what I would expect from a top tier maker such as Empire Ears, and at the respective prices.

    Sound extraordinaire:

    I listened to the Bravado before the ESR. A big mistake. Why? Well, I like a bassier warmer sound and as a result, found the ESR too neutral for my preference. But, after much listening, I understood the ESR well. It is meant for that neutral, reference taste/sound and as such performs quite well. It is very, very good.

    The Bravado on the other hand is meant as an entrance in to the Empire Ears world. Providing a sound, which is more straightforward, with better reach of sub bass (but not necessarily better quality), the Bravado does its job nicely. After my initial listen, I immediately put it up there with my current offering at this price point, the CA Jupiter. Coming at that sound with much different approaches, I liked how the Bravado presented the sound: with a good bit of detail, but not meant to be clarity-king. No, to me the Bravado is meant to present and honest sound, which can be built upon with EQ, or without. Enjoying it that way on the Opus #2/iFi xCAN rig, I preferred having the XBass+ and 3D+ off. The Bravado presents itself well without any additional input, a good sign.

    The bass of the Bravado can become quite intoxicating. This is no basshead IEM mind you, but the realism with which it presents itself is a marvel. Especially at the price point marketed. Nicely done, with a bit of rumble, good presence and feel, without bleeding into the mids. What more could one ask for?

    Vocal presentation in the mids can be defined as somewhat muted. Pink Floyd’ live version of The Great Gig In The Sky typifies this reluctance to be too far forward, especially during that sublime solo. A stunning voice, presenting itself with reverence for the historical aspect of the song. Follow that with Junior Brown’s deep reaching voice in Just A Little Love, and you get the sense that EE wanted the Bravado to represent music with a nod to nostalgia or history. Junior’s voice penetrates pretty much anything, and still does so here, but not with the authority of other IEM’s I have heard. I do not consider this a fault at all, but a nicely done differentiation from the crowd.

    Turning the volume up, oftentimes I have a hard time keeping the volume up due to the harsh way some treble is presented. Nothing of the sort happens here. The drum stroke of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Riviera Paradise can become harsh to me, as can SRV’s impeccable solo. But not here. I raised the volume, taking in full force that sublime solo. Having seen this exact solo four times when he was alive, the song and SRV mean the world to me. This is one of my all-time favorite songs, and he is my favorite artist. Not one thing bothers me through the trio of #2/xCAN/Bravado during this song. I only reach to turn the volume down, for it was quite loud.

    Each note, each pluck of string is where it should be as well. Enveloping the stage, you understand who and what is the center of attention as the support flows back into their respective roles, only coming out for their individual solo. A magnificent song presented quite well here. If you cannot tell, I am rather enjoying the Bravado, and do understand what the fuss is about.


    Empire Ears Bravado ($599) vs Campfire Audio Jupiter ($799):

    The Jupiter is considered by many (including myself) to be the flagship that started it all for Campfire Audio. Not really a true flagship since the Andromeda followed fairly soon, but the note that set the stage for the others in the line to follow. The mids are to die for. Sumptuous, full, rich and forward the mids make this an intoxicating sound. And just like the U8, it does take time to adjust to that forward sounding mid. But the wait is well worth it. With a bass that supports the sound as well as it can in support, the two are on par with each other. And both are of good quality as well. If you want a bit of soul to your mids, then the Jupiter might just be the ticket. But the Bravado is not far behind.

    Empire Ears Bravado ($599) vs 64Audio U8 ($899, B-stock):

    The bass on the U8 is amongst the best I have or have heard, period. Deep, rich, voluptuous, voluminous and rumbly; the U8 provides you with that downhome blues bass note. And that is why I purchased it. The overall signature did take me a while to adjust to, as it can be somewhat flat of note. But, once adjusted you relish that deep, dark varnished tone. This is the IEM I reach for when I need my single malt scotch. Not when I want one, no…when I need one. That said, the Bravado provides a very good bass. Not the quantity of the U8, but sufficient enough and of such quality that it can hold its head high, while drinking that single malt.

    Empire Ears Bravado ($599) vs Simgot EM5 ($499):

    The Simgot comes in with a very good fit. Comfortable to wear and a wonderful cable allow the user to forget about wearing the EM5. With a fairly neutral sound, the bass falls well shy of the Bravado. I would state that the EM5 has a much brighter sound as well. Treble is definitely emphasized and can get a bit tedious at higher volumes or after longer sessions. I do like the simplicity of sound from the EM5, but it fall short of what the Bravado brings to the table.

    Empire Ears ESR ($899) vs Empire Ears Bravado ($599):

    An inhouse comparison might not be fair, but it can draw one down the road of which Empire Ears travels. As stated already, the lines of EE proceed on different routes. And that is good for each forges their own path. The Bravado’s path is one of more bass quantity and a warmer signature. The ESR is as neutral as I have heard. And, as stated elsewhere many prefer the Bravado for that more personal signature. Vocal treatment falls behind the ESR as one would figure, but there is more of a “feeling” in those vocals. You understand the singer better I believe. You get more personal with the Bravado, and that is all right in my book. So, choose wisely for it may be harder than you think.

    Well…what is left?

    This is a rather short review, and I will admit that I went more into the esoteric listening as opposed to the analyzation of sound. Not that I’m any good at analyzing sound anyway. But I feel with the ESR/Bravado off-the-cuff thoughts are where it should be. Not bad mind you.

    So, from all of this, what should you reap? Heck, what should I store? Well, an initial understanding of a top of the tier IEM company first of all. Second, and probably more important is an appreciation for what Empire Ears does to not only their top IEM’s, which receive a huge following and appreciation; but from their entry and mid-tier. Often times this aspect can be lost when going from one line to another with IEM’s. I won’t mention anyone in particular, but it does happen. They try to trickle down the sound from their top IEM to the mid/lower items. And it just does not work.

    Happily, here, EE has not chosen that route (or so I think). Each line up presents their own take on that EE sound. And I am happy to say it works. The Bravado is quite a good unit and could very well replace my current unit at this price. That is about the highest praise I can give.
      leaky74, szore, Grimbles and 5 others like this.
    1. wmasters731
      Well done. I love it when someone does a review about how the music sounds instead of analyzing each facet of it. To me, this is the way to describe an IEM. I recently bought the Bravado and I feel the same way about it. A keeper- reminds me of 70's era 2-way speakers- fun. Thank you.
      wmasters731, Mar 25, 2019
    2. ngoshawk
      Ah, thank you! Sometimes I just get lucky. Thanks for the compliment and good listening!
      ngoshawk, Mar 25, 2019
    3. deafdoorknob
      great review! however, like yourself, i have both the Bravados and the U8 (with m15 module) i actually found the bravado to be a fair bit bassier, esp the upper and mid bass, whilst the U8 is darker its bass is more linear, imo.
      deafdoorknob, Mar 26, 2019
  2. pali
    Bravado: Fun. Flexible. Forgiving. (ADDICTIVE)
    Written by pali
    Published Jan 21, 2019
    Pros - Fun. Flexible. Forgiving.
    Cons - Driver Flex

    Thanks to Empire Ears and Devon Higgins, I was able to listen to the Bravado as part of the review tour. I am no stranger to Empire Ears and their wonderful gear as I own one of their flagships, the Phantom, and I can't get enough of it. Paired the Bravados with DX200 AMP1 so all the below impressions will be from a very neutral and analytical source. Only used them with the stock Ares II cable.


    Fun (bass): These IEMs got me literally dancing when I had them. The bass energetic and heart-thumping but not overpowered. There is also depth and texture, especially when compared to the Phantom. I especially enjoyed listening to pop, 80's, and techno.

    Flexible (mids): Unlike most V shaped signatures, I feel like I can still listen to Jazz on these - the mids take one small step (not one giant leap) towards the back. Listening to Louis Armstrong's Azalea or Chet Baker's September song, I could still appreciate the mids on the tracks. The timbre does not suffer too as they do not seem too artificial. They are not Phantoms but they also didn't make me want to put them down because they sounded artificial.

    Forgiving (highs): The highs on these are very forgiving. I tried tracks that I sometimes avoid because of high background noise or sibilance but the Bravados let you enjoy the music without tiring you down with all the micro-details. Don't get me wrong, these still get you all the details but will not really sparkle like 10+ driver IEMS. There are no treble peaks with these, and I wouldn't change it one bit.

    Others: These are a little harder to drive than my Phantoms, which I appreciate because of the lower background noise. They do suffer from a little driver flex but nothing a good old ear pulling can't fix.

    **I imagine that these would do even well with a silver cable - it should give the Bravados a little more sparkle and also further improve the texture and clarity.

    Overall: Warning! These are highly addictive! If you are looking for an energetic and fun IEM that doesn't break the bank and lets you listen to all genres of music without ever tiring you out, the Bravados are THE ONE.
      leaky74 and Devon Higgins like this.
  3. pinkzeppelincult
    Empire Ears Bravado — Dragon Punch
    Written by pinkzeppelincult
    Published Nov 22, 2018
    Pros - Powerful bass
    Balanced treble
    Strong price-to-performance ratio
    Cons - Unnatural timbre
    Genre pickiness

    Just to be upfront, this section has little to do with the Bravado. It's more a brief one of those "My Audiophile Journey" essays. It's there for those who are interested, but the proper discussion of the Bravado begins with the Sound section below.

    Anyway, back when the best (and only) IEM I had ever heard was the Etymotic ER4PT, I had a punkish attitude: I was a "true" audiophile because my humble reference monitor was objectively better than all the more expensive and colorfully tuned products out there, which obviously were just glorified Beats. I've since grown up: I'm no longer such a glib prat; and I've recently discovered that while I do appreciate and enjoy a well-executed reference product, I greatly prefer a tonally accurate mid-centric signature for everyday listening.

    Yet, in a temporary backslide, I fully expected when I signed up for this review tour to prefer the ESR's (hypothetical) refinement to the Bravado's (hypothetical) hooliganism.

    The Bravado was all too happy to prove me wrong.


    Presentation: The Bravado comes out of the gate fists a-fly. No chill. Hard in the paint. It's a scrappy bugger that gets in your face and dares you to judge it based on its price point. It reminds me of a skilled teenage bare-knuckle boxer: its bass punch is authoritative; impressive are its poise and technique. However, this spirited, pugilistic attitude does come at the expense of sophistication: the Bravado sneers at the concepts of soundstage and timbre, crippling its versatility. Not that anybody was looking to the Bravado as a classical or jazz specialist, but the Bravado's limits are even tighter: it refuses to play nice with anything that relies in any way on acoustic instruments. Yet, it equally refuses to be outclassed (at its price point) when it comes to EDM, rap, hip-hop, rock, or grunge.

    Bass: The Bravado's bass is its distinguishing feature, giving it an obvious L-shaped response. I don't think it will quite satisfy the proper bassheads out there, but it's still a strong, relentless bass, always at the fore. Put something on with a good beat and you'll be up and about in no time. Attack, however, is not particularly aggressive. There's actually very little impact to its bass, just serious volume. I'm no basshead, but even I think the Bravado could use a little more bite. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, as it reduces fatigue without becoming muddy. Decay is satisfying and very natural, perhaps a little to the fast side: even when the bass is whumping away far above the other frequencies, it never gums up the air in the stage. However, fast-moving basslines can still outpace the Bravado, especially as they get deeper into sub-bass. That said, bass extension in general is just fine—mid-bass takes priority over sub-bass, but there's no noticeable roll-off.

    Bass texture suffers with the Bravado's timbre, which is to say there isn't any: everything just sounds like bass frequencies, not bass instruments with overtones and all that. Again, this doesn't matter much for synthesized and distorted genres, but it's almost disorienting to hear a string bass as a drone with an utter lack of woodiness or resonance. I don't recommend the experience.

    One might say the Bravado's bass bleeds into its mids, but I don't think that's quite accurate. The bass is unequivocally dominant, but it doesn't seem to directly affect the mids beyond drowning them out.

    Mids: I'm tempted to begin this section by inquiring, "What mids?" That's not entirely fair, however, because while the Bravado's mids are entirely subordinate, they are neither anemic nor poorly rendered. The mids are tuned more for solidity than utmost clarity, but there's a reasonable amount of detail to both vocals and instruments, and they don't sound inherently veiled even when they're being overshadowed by the bass or treble. All told, the Bravado's mids are pretty unremarkable. They're there, and they do their job: you can hear vocals and guitars over beats—or rather under them—just fine, but don't expect anything exceptional. The mids are just not the Bravado's focus at all.

    Treble: Treble is a similar story, but it's more elevated than the mids, though still below the bass by a good margin. I never noticed sibilance where it wasn't already in the track, and the treble never became fatiguing. You can't always hear everything going on with a full drum kit, but the treble is crisp with plenty of detail and a surprising amount of air. Together, these traits make the Bravado's treble almost dry, but a touch of shimmer and sparkle densify the treble enough that it coheres with the rest of the Bravado's bodied signature. The treble gets lost nowhere near as much as the mids, and this contributes significantly to what balance the Bravado is able to present (which, mind, is still not one of its defining characteristics). In all respects, the treble feels correct for the Bravado; one might even say it makes the Bravado: adding polish and excitement to what could otherwise be a blandly loud L-signature without becoming tizzy or obnoxious like what happens with more pronounced V-signatures.

    Resolution: Further thanks to the treble, but also due to some deal Empire Ears has clearly made with the devil, detail retrieval on the Bravado, like all their IEMs, is superb. The bass can overwhelm at times (i.e. often) and make micro-details difficult to pick out, but I assure you it's all there. Even more impressive, this doesn't ruin poorly recorded or mastered tracks, which is important considering the Bravado's preferred genres. Transients are pleasingly quick from the mids up, but the bass can smother these as well.

    Also, to reiterate, I promise for the last time, the Bravado's timbre is entirely artificial. It has strong detail retrieval, but this alone does not mean you should try using it for music of the classical, jazz, or singer-songwriter varieties, or again for anything else that prominently features acoustic instruments. You should not. Keep to the electronics and the Bravado will thank you, as will your ears.

    Soundstage: The Bravado's soundstage is unimpressive but adequate. Fairly wide but neither tall nor deep. Live performances sound like your head is where the microphone should be, which I suppose makes sense but doesn't actually sound very agreeable. Separation, however, is perfectly fine: the stage may be small but it doesn't feel claustrophobic, and you can usually pick out different instruments—if not always their locations—with ease.


    Build feels solid. The included Final Audio Type E tips come in a good range of sizes and are grippy, isolating, and comfortable (although the SS tips wouldn't stay on the left nozzle longer than a couple seconds—also the case with the ESR, but not with the Phantom for whatever reason). The shells stick out a good bit, but the fit was secure: no sharp edges, pressure points, or excess weight. Overall a quality product.


    Etymotic ER4XR: Bravado has significantly more powerful bass response and better bass detail, but the ER4XR wins on texture and transient response. The Bravado is much more sensitive and will certainly work with smartphones. The Bravado's isolation is not as good as the ER4XR's. Its detail retrieval is close but falls just short of Etymotic's titan, especially when the Bravado's bass is busy dominating the treble. On a similar note, the ER4XR is more balanced: a slight V compared to the Bravado's distinct L. The Bravado has far better separation. The Bravado is more danceable but less goosebumps-exciting, especially with vocals. Neither have a good soundstage, but the Bravado's is slightly better, as well as its imaging and separation.



    iBasso DX200 (Amp 1)
    : I suspect the hyper-transparent, slightly cold Amp 1 is partly to blame here, but this pairing was not ideal. It gives the Bravado a bit too much freedom, making it sound raw and uncouth, shouty and unbalanced. Other amp cards probably patch this pairing up, but I don't own any at the moment, so all I can say is that Amp 1 is no good.

    Audio-Opus Opus #2
    : The difference between this and the DX200 is subtle, but the Opus #2 makes some important improvements. Its touch of warmth greatly improves the Bravado's timbre and moderately improves the balance without stripping the Bravado of its character, and detail retrieval, soundstage, and imaging are all (slightly) superior to that of the DX200. The DX200 lets the Bravado run wild, but the Opus #2 gives it a soothing touch that makes it much more pleasant company.


    Effect Audio Ares II 8-Wire: An interesting pair-up, but not a particularly good one. The 8-Wire noticeably improves all technical abilities of the Bravado, but it also weights it even further towards the low end, both by pumping up the bass and airing out the treble. For me, it upsets the balance and PRaT more than the minor improvements in soundstage, etc. are worth. The Bravado is already not a particularly versatile monitor, and the 8-Wire seriously exacerbates this problem. Nor does it bring the Bravado into proper basshead territory. I'd advise against this one (and perhaps the included Ares 4-Wire as well in favor of something more neutral).


    It would be easy to read the above and think that I dislike the Bravado or recommend against it. That is not the case. The Bravado may not be my own ideal monitor, but I can appreciate what it is good for. And what it's good for, it is indeed excellent for, especially for its mid-fi asking price. However, I do caution the prospective buyer to make sure that they will be able to take advantage of the Bravado's strengths and allow its weaknesses, which means a library consisting mostly of genres seriously intended for powerful—but not truly overpowering—bass. No, it isn't good for much else, but if your music is appropriate, I can heartily recommend the Bravado.
      Grayven and crabdog like this.
  4. rantng
    Gets down, but not dirty
    Written by rantng
    Published Nov 7, 2018
    Pros - Sub-bass, smooth & easy sound, great "stock" cable, accessories
    Cons - Mids slightly recessed
    I received the Bravado as part of the review tour. These words are my own. Thank you to Devon HIggins for arranging everything.
    This won't follow the normal review format, but will read more like a TLDR impressions post. I'm going to skip right to the sound portion as I believe the unboxing, accessories, specs, etc. have been well-covered. Pictures are absent as well. Unfortunately, my time on the tour was cut short due to unforeseen issues so this won't be a detailed review, but I still wanted to share my thoughts on this IEM.

    Bass has a nice thump, with fast decay and extends well into lower depths. If you like deep & clean sub-bass, the W9 driver delivers.
    Kanye West - Mercy has gobs of sub-bass and the W9 driver handles this track well. This isn’t some high school kid driving around with a huge subwoofer in the trunk. This is properly tuned professionally installed sound system bass. You get that nice sub-bass rumble. It’s a clean bass with none of the buzz.
    vs Shure SE846
    Bravado sub-bass reaches deeper, cleaner
    vs Massdrop Plus
    Bass is cleaner on Bravado. Bravado more balanced w/a wider stage. Vocals on the MD Plus are more in your head

    Mids although smooth are slightly recessed vs bass & treble. I found the Bravado slightly L-shaped, not too surprising with the enclosed W9 dynamic driver handling the bass & the BA handling highs & mids.
    Bloc Party - Signs (Armand Van Helden Remix) from the Intimacy Remixed album, about 40 seconds in the vocals transition from high to low in volume and staging. Bravado handles these transitions well with good placement and nice 3D imaging.
    Female vocals don't really shine. With artist like Lenka, Regina Spektor & Sara Bareilles I didn't feel myself getting pulled in. Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat - Lucky, both great vocalists, but I feel like the Bravado doesn't really shine with higher vocal ranges. However, with George Ezra and his baritone voice, I found the Bravado complemented his voice really well. It added a certain richness and warmth that I really enjoyed.

    Treble on the Bravado is about what I expect in this price range, that is to say good. At times I wished for more top end sparkle, but I am a treblehead. It is sufficient, but you never quite get that top end sizzle. Bravado has a more consumer oriented signature, which I normally associate with non-audiophile sound, but I confess I am a treblehead. I normally prefer a brighter signature, but I found the Bravado an enjoyable listen.

    Initial listening was on the Hiby R6, but my preferred DAP is the Sony ZX2. I recently picked up the Hiby R6 and was undecided on it. The jury is still out on the R6, but I can say I enjoyed the Bravado more than I thought I would. With that said, I REALLY enjoyed the pairing with the ZX2. The ZX2 has a slightly warmer sound, but also an expanded soundstage, greater height & depth, as well as greater separation. After switching to the ZX2 I found myself wondering why I didn't start with this combination.

    Fit was great and I never found myself having to adjust them once I got the proper seal. The shape of the IEM is like the "custom universal" type shell, without the contoured concha. The nozzles are fairly short. Final Audio E type eartips are included, but my preferred tips are Spinfits and I found I was able to get a good insertion depth, which helped with isolation on my NYC subway commute.

    I normally prefer a brighter signature, but the Bravado is very easy to listen to. It doesn’t have the widest soundstage or greatest resolution, but it’s not meant to. That’s not to say it’s lacking in these areas. As EE’s “entry level” IEM, it’s meant to offer an entry into the Empire Ears family. And it’s a warm welcome into the family. If you love rich bass, the Bravado is your IEM. I can't imagine what the Vantage & Nemesis with their dual-W9 drivers sound like. The Nemesis with its dual W9, 1 mid, 1 high, 1 super high layout, it sounds like it ticks all the boxes that the Bravado doesn't quite. Down the EE X-Series rabbit hole I go. With that said, the Bravado is a great "entry-level" IEM and serves as a great introduction to the EE X-Series. I want to thank Empire Ears & @Devon Higgins for the opportunity to hear these.

    A note on driver flex. On initial insertion I didn’t experience driver flex. However, with all my IEMs, in order to get a better seal after the initial insertion I normally pull on my ears. When doing this on the Bravado I can hear the telltale sound of driver flex. It’s similar to the sound of a Snapple cap. Not wanting to stress the driver anymore I switched to pulling on my ears while inserting the IEM, but if I go back to my normal routine I am able to consistently induce driver flex. Driver flex doesn't normally damage the driver, but obviously I didn't want to test this. Venting normally helps reduce driver flex, but I can't recall if the Bravado is vented.
      Colors, Niyologist and Devon Higgins like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Niyologist
      Also, thank you for reminding me about the mild driver flex. It's no big deal about the flex. The diaphragm adjusts after getting a proper seal.
      Niyologist, Nov 8, 2018
    3. rantng
      Allergy/sinus issues which affected my hearing
      rantng, Nov 9, 2018
    4. Niyologist
      Oh. Okay. I had something like that just before the earphones got to me. Then it cleared up and then after reviewing it, I sent it to you.
      Niyologist, Nov 9, 2018
  5. Niyologist
    The Hybrid with Pristine Sound
    Written by Niyologist
    Published Nov 4, 2018
    Pros - Build, Accessories, Deep Bass, Emotional and Life-like Mids, Refined treble, and 3-D Soundstage.
    Cons - Mids are slightly recessed. That's basically it.

    Empire Ears Bravado: The Hybrid with Pristine Sound

    Before I get into this. I need to mention that this is a Tour Unit and I have observed the sound of the Bravado and the ESR for about one week. Also, thank you, Devon Higgins, for selecting me to get a chance to listen to both the Bravado and ESR.

    Introduction: I am an avid music listener. Whether I'm at home or on the go, I usually use IEMs that can please my auditory senses. I have listened to many IEMs and only a few can accomplish this. Are the Empire Ears Bravado and ESR an exception? Let's find out, shall we?

    Let's start with the basics:

    The Bravado:

    SPECS: One Balanced Armature (Mids/Highs) with a W9 Subwoofer (Bass) and a 4-Way Crossover System through synX Technology.

    Isolation: I tested this out in the noisiest parts of NYC. This IEM can block out most external noise on moderate volume. I used the Final Audio Type E ear tips and it's extremely effective with reducing the external noise interference. The way the shells are designed also helped with blocking out the heavy external noise. Even on the train, which I found extremely impressive. Just look both ways before you cross the street with these on.

    Build Quality: The Bravado have an acrylic shell that's glossy and looks like an obsidian stone. The nozzles have a triple bore for a more expansive stage. There are also ports on the bottom of each earpiece for the Bravado. The ports on the bottom are probably there to enhance the soundstage. Also, the Bravado has a gold EE symbol. The sturdiness of the Bravado gives a feeling of great durability. Although I do take care of an IEM properly. So I really don't put that to the test.

    Ports on the bottom of the Bravado.

    The Empire Ears ESR on the left and the Bravado on the right.


    Final Audio Type E tips + Alcohol Pads for cleaning Ear tips


    Empire Aegis Hard Case



    Quick Guide and Soft Pouch Carrying bags + Cleaning Cloth:


    The Effect Audio Ares II 2-pin Handcrafted Cable automatically comes with the Bravado. Along with a nozzle cleaner and an adapter of your choosing (2.5mm female to 3.5mm male or 2.5mm female to 4.4mm male).



    Bravado in my left ear.

    The Bravado sits in my ear more effectively. The ESR feels a bit awkward in my ear and eventually the pain sets in after two hours.

    Source: Shanling M3S w/Effect Audio Ares II 2.5mm Cable.

    Before I go on to the core of the review, I need to talk about the technology that was implemented that was responsible for my observations.

    synX Crossover Technology

    Basically, this is a special crossover technology that provides more audio bands per driver. This will allow for lower distortion, Best Signal to Noise Ratio and an Ultra Wide Frequency Bandwidth. More info about this tech in the following link: https://empireears.com/collections/x-line/products/bravado-universal-in-ear-monitors

    Bass: Deep and velvety bass tones. Giving the Bravado a smooth flowing sound. Not the entirety of the spectrum. Excellent rumble and fast attack/decay. The bass is quite controlled. As a result, the bass feels and sounds much like a subwoofer. Overall the bass is deep, clean, and very impactful. Very impressive nonetheless.

    Mids: Slightly recessed. I wish the mids were more forward. Although it's still good enough for me. The ambiance of the mids is moderately warm. The details are fairly forward. This sounds quite emotional and its suitable for many vocal related genres. What impressed me the most is the character that the mids presented. It's not only emotional, but it's also life-like. I never find this particular frequency boring.

    Treble: Smooth yet refined. There a few spikes here and there and it’s nowhere at exaggerated as the ESR. Just enough to make it shimmer. The refined treble transitions well between the upper mids and lower treble. This is suitable with percussion tracks because the tonality doesn't sound artificial. It sounds very natural.

    Soundstage: Large. Very large. The spatial cues are excellent. This can perform well with well-recorded tracks and give a proper ambiance of the music. The dimensions of the Bravado is what stands out to me the most. I am quite impressed with the deliverance spatial rendering this possesses. Not only the soundstage is 3-D, but it's also quite holographic. The stage is quite clear on where the instruments are placed.

    The box that holds all of the goodies of the Bravado, including the Bravado itself.

    Conclusion: I appreciate the warm atmosphere exudes from the Bravado. It's like going to the beach on a warm summer day and feeling the wind blow past your ears. Yes, I think the Bravado is worthy to be used anywhere. As long as it's not in the rain. Anyway, the Bravado gets a near perfect score. The only real issue that the slightly recessed mid-range prevented this from being the greatest IEM I have ever heard. Otherwise, I think it's one of the best IEMs I've ever used so far. There's so much that the Bravado provides and I feel that for $599, it's slightly more giving for the price tag. Overall I am impressed with the form factor of the Bravado. I give it a 4.5/5.

    Next Review Coming: The Empire Ears ESR.
      davidcotton, Colors and gc335 like this.
  6. suman134
    The skillful performer.
    Written by suman134
    Published Sep 24, 2018
    Pros - Very good bass, good amount of details, fatigue free Sound signature, top quality notes thickness, Mids and highs are very natural, fantastic timber and tonality, very good sound stage.
    Cons - Treble can use a bit more energy, lacks a bit of transparency with micro details.

    Empire Ears need no introduction, its one of the most renowned brands in the market as of now. Those who have them feel they have got it, and those who doesn’t want a pair for themselves.

    Let it be the Apollo Zeus or Legend X, Empire ears has always been desired by consumers and praised by reviewers. EE has been on top of the food chain with its exceptional SQ, build quality and fitment.

    I am reviewing the cheapest earphone from their current lineup, The Bravado. It shells a single BA hybrid setup and has a 4 way crossover. Comes with Universal and Custom trims. Custom models have plenty of customization options. I am reviewing the universal version here and it comes with only one color, black. Priced at $599 it faces fair bit of competition from Nocturnal Avalon, Fibae 3, Campfire Jupiter, Westome W50 and many more earphones, as this price range is getting more crowded with every passing day.

    I have The Avalon, the Fibae 3 and the DUNU DK-3001 to compare the Bravado with.

    In their Words:-

    “Pairing a single W9 subwoofer with a balanced armature counterpart, Empire Ears sets the tone for achieving perfect coherency between the best of both worlds: the naturalness of dynamic driven bass, complemented with the clarity and precision up top of a well-placed balanced armature. Designed for perfect neutrality, the Bravado's signature is intent on equality, providing perfect balance between the bass, midrange, and treble. Its entry-level position might be deceiving, for when it comes to performance the Bravado boldly holds its own; the precise imaging and separation one comes to expect from Empire Ears, yet at a friendlier cost.”

    P.S. I bought this unit with a small discount.


    All the EE earphones come with this standard packaging for their Universal Earphones.

    Upon opening the box the first thing one can see it their name on the Aegis case, the box contains the Effect Audio cable, the earpieces, cleaning tool and Final audio style Tips. A few more things can be found under the protective case. There are couple of carry pouches, one for the Earphone and one for the transport. there is a cleaning cloth and some documentation to round up the long list of accessories.



    The Bravado is totally made out of one piece of shell and a nicely infused back plate It's not the most beautiful looking earphone but it looks classy and the build quality is up to the mark. No need to worry about the build at all unless you want to damage it intentionally. On the inside it implements a two bore design, one for Bass and other for mids and highs.

    Custom trim has plenty of options to chose from and can be totally customized according to preference.

    There is a triple bore vent on the shell for the dynamic driver to breathe. Even though the shell is on the larger side its one of the most comfortable earphone, more comfortable than the Nocturnal Avalon and 64audio U3, or Earsonics ES3. Putting tips on the 5mm nozzle is fairly easy.




    Empire ears has the best possible variety of cables termination, 3.5mm, 2,5mm balanced and 4,4mm pentaconn to name them, you can chose one of these while placing the order, all of them are made by Effect audio and is of the ARES II type. It does ship with only one cable and it's understandable. I opted for the 2.5mm termination.

    All the cables have plastic cable guides, which helps the earphone to hold its place, giving it a secure feel.


    In their words:-

    "Every Bravado in-ear monitor includes a bespoke, handcrafted Ares II cable by Effect Audio. The Ares II boasts a proprietary blend of 26 AWG UPOCC Litz copper with ultra-flexible insulation for maximum signal speed transmission, performance, and ergonomics. Each cable is terminated in an ultra durable 3.5mm, 24k Oyaide gold plated right angle plug. Alternatively, for our audiophile clientele, we also offer 2.5 and 4.4 balanced terminations at no additional charge.

    Effect Audio’s extensive engineering and manufacturing background gives them the edge over all other cables. After extensive testing with numerous other cable manufacturers we’re proud to announce our official partnership with Effect Audio to bring you some of the finest cables in the industry and to ultimately defeat the weak link in IEMs."


    Once you get a hold of the cables guides, the bravado is one of the most comfortable earphone in the market. There is no discomfort thanks to the ergonomic design which has no sharp edges, no pointy ends and the little wing helps the earpiece get better traction. Fitment is not shallow thanks to the longer nozzle, giving the Bravado a more secure feel in the ear.

    Due to the larger shell size it might not be the most comfortable earphone for people with small ears.

    The fitment is not as deep as something like the Audiofly AF1120 hence the isolation is not the best, still above average, one does not need to worry about the passive noises in the background.

    CAUTION:- don’t use earphones where you have to be aware of your surroundings like driving and walking on the road, stay home and enjoy your music or at gym.


    The Bravado is a very passionate sounding earphone, taking any type of dullness out of context. The hybrid driver really delivers one of the most engaging presentation.

    The first thing that comes to my mind while listening to the Bravado is the amount of musicality and enjoy-ability it brings to the table without losing any details. The L shaped signature gives the Bravado a very fun and entertaining signature. The bass region takes the centre stage here as the mid range and treble play their part perfectly, none being aggressive at any point of the spectrum.

    It is not tuned for accuracy for sure, it aims to appeal to the mass and does it flawlessly.

    It is marginally colored, coloration is mostly at the lower end, with a darker but fairly neutral tonality, emulating a more mature ES3, ES3 which is a technically inferior earphone.

    Properly burned in for 150hrs, I am using stock Effect audio 2.5mm cable for this review and the source is the Plenue R.

    You can see the Drivers in this pic, can you?



    Nocturnal is not much keen on sharing the sensitivity figures or any type of technical values. None the less the Bravado is very easy to drive and is loud enough. No need to amp if your source is good, as amping does not help in any way, it just helps the earphone to get unreasonably louder.

    You can drive the Bravado out of any portable device, it is very easy to drive, people intending to use it with their mobile devices might miss out on some micro details but it will still deliver plenty of details and the fun factor is still intact.


    As mentioned above the Bass takes the center stage and man does it impress. It's one of the best quality bass I have experienced in a while. If you want flatter bass response, All I want to say is, run away fella, this will kill the cat and won't even notify.

    The quantity and quality is very good. It is full bodied and meaty without being slow, in fact decay is one of the best and delivers a fantastic timber and tonality, yes it is slower than other flat sounding earphones like the ER-4P or AF1120 but 4P and 1120 can only dream of this much of texture, details, and quantity. The Bravado moves plenty of air, has a border line huge slam, huge is TFZ king, this is slightly smaller but the details and accuracy the Bravado packs is just outstanding in comparison.

    The Bravado has a very good balance of sub-bass, mid-bass and upper bass. None of these three take authority or get overly aggressive. With a very good extension the bravado has plenty of sub-bass rumble, and it doesn’t hold back while delivering a full bodied nicely rounded punch and the slam is one of the best. Mid bass arrives with very good decay speed, doesn’t bother much and doesn’t try to be omnipresent as it was the case with the Nocturnal Avalon. Upper bass to holds its ground but loses energy as it moves towards the lower mids.

    The bravado delivers a very detailed and textured presentation with equally good transparency. It has one of the weightier bass notes and when it hits.. its blissful.


    The whole mid range and top end is taken care by single proprietary BA driver. Still it delivers like a champ.

    The upper bass descends into the lower mind with some drop in forwardness or say energy at the crossover point, and from here on the BA driver takes charge. Even though the transition is not flawless the lower midrange is not lacking clarity or energy. The whole mid range maintains this amount of energy which is very smooth and delicious, can I use delicious for sound? Hell yeah I can.

    Vocals are very very good with accurate thickness to them, sound very natural with both male and female voices with very good body to them, it is not as crisp as the Avalon but it has the smoothness which melts into the music and doesn’t try to bite. it sounds very transparent, resolved with fantastic texture.

    First thing first, no this is not the most detailed mid range you can find for the price, look at something else if you want to analyze the music or are a details hog as it doesn’t attack like those tuned for accuracy and lacks a bit of micro details. The bravado is made to deliver very good amount of details with notes which are some of the cleanest, each note has its own space without overlapping another, with plenty of air between them. In front of this the Notcurnal Avalon seems a bit hurried and clumsy as the notes feel like fighting for air. ( you ga me ga me fight for air aeeaaa aa? anyone?)

    Let it be layering or separation or spacing between the instruments, the Bravado easily beats the likes of ES3 and even the Avalon, with its clearer and more lively.

    The thing which helps the Bravado shine is the stage size, which is very well rounded with plenty of depth height and width. The stage size is considerably bigger than the ES3, 64audio U3 and has better depth than the Avalon.


    This treble is somewhere in between the Avalon and the Fibae 3. It maintains very good amount of spark and the extension too is equally good as the competition, and slightly better than ES3 and 64 U3. It’s the natural, uncolored smooth presentation which brings peace to my mind.

    The transition from upper mid range to the lower treble is very good, needless to say it’s the same driver doing the lifting for both and it maintains very good amount of energy while transecting. The bravado puts forward as very smooth still lively sound signature, which I had not seen with many lately. It lacks any type of spikes and the notes are very well defined with plenty of texture to them. Texture which is barely there with earphones like ES3 and 64audio U3 and not this with the Avalon.

    Let it be pianos, trumpets or cymbals the sharpness and the finishing of the note along with the presentation is exceptional as these instruments have better transparency compared to others. And the generous stage size makes everything sound very clear with plenty of air between instruments.

    Let it be layering or separation or instrument placing, the Bravado is neck in neck with the Fibae 3. If it had the extra bit of transparency with the background tunes..


    VS Avalon :-

    The avalon lacks sub-bass rumble, air and body, the impact is considerably smaller. Mid bass is more aggressive. Upper bass and lower mid have thinner tonality. Vocals are cleaner and crispier but are unnaturally sharp. Upper mid sound very clear and is full with micro details.

    Treble with a lower treble elevation delivers more details and sounds clearer. Has slightly smaller stage depth and treble region suffer the most. Layering and separation on both is very good, but Bravado has the upper had with better air in between.

    Fitting wise both are very good, Empire Ears has very good Accessories set.

    All in all it has better details and better transparency.


    VS Fibae 3:-

    The fibae Has considerably smaller bass size, but has equally goods sub-bass. Details is similar with faster decay, stage is smaller here. Mid range is very polite and marginally thicker. It is more balanced than the Bravado which loses forwardness at the crossover. Has better micro details and sounds very involving. The resolving details and the projection keeps it ahead of Bravado.

    The treble has better overall transparency, it sounds very vivid and clearer in comparison. Both are very clean. With better upper treble energy the Fibae 3 rules the treble region in this price range. Layering and separation is fantastic on both, none has the edge here.

    Fitting and isolation of the Fibae 3 is mind blowing. The smaller form factor helps big time. Stage of both the earphone is equally impressive. the Bravado has better width and height but 3 has more depth.

    The fibae 3 is ahead when it comes to details, but the Bravado has marginally more accurate notes thickness with mids and treble notes.

    VS Earsonics ES3 :-

    The ES3 has similar body and impact but is fairly slower with more dominating sub-bass. The bravado is more rounded and has faster decay, better details. Mid range of the ES3 is well in the V. The ES3 sounds veiled and clearly unclear in comparison. Both are very smooth but Bravado sounds lively.

    Treble of the ES3 is similar extension but lacks clarity and micro details. Layering and separation of the ES3 is slightly inferior. Stage wise the Bravado is bigger in every dimension.

    Bravado has far better accessories set.

    Needless to say the Bravado is a more capable earphone.


    When investing in an earphone, at this price point you expect nothing less than immaculate sound quality, and the Bravado delivers that without any hiccups. Yes the Bravado is not made for accuracy but a properly tuned BA driver can do very little wrong and the Bravado shows that with its very good mid range and treble accuracy.

    And the best part of the Bravado is its very forgiving and smooth, with no spikes of any type. The tonality which is true to the nature wins my heart. If it had the extra bit details, it wound have shutdown shops of some brands.

    Everyone wants a piece of Empire Ears, and EE is not for those with a smaller wallet though. They cost more than what 90% of us are willing to pay. But man.. does it delivers.. and how. I am impressed.

    If you want a fun sounding earphone with very good amount of details, the EE Bravado will perform exceptionally. If you own a flat sounding earphone the Bravado will intrigue as a side kick to you unless you can't take this much of bass. I repeat again, it's not for detail hogs.

    I hope you guys are enjoying your music. Have fun, Cheers.



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  7. rhester
    Empire Ears Bravado
    Written by rhester
    Published Aug 15, 2018
    Pros - bass, slam, stage , lifelike mids, size and fit. great cable, price
    Cons - Long lead time. Recessed highs
    I was extremely lucky to be the first person on the ESR/Bravado tour . I received the same package as all and you have seen all the pics so I will not bore you with more of the same . A little background on me may be in order Becuase I am different from other viewers - I am a mechanical engineer by education and a mid level manager by trade - so functionality is my concern not so much the ascetics. Don’t get me wrong, it is beautifully packed , built and presented and the Ares Ii cable is a beauty, but I have seen many great packages that were sexier than they sounded. That is definitely not the case with either of these Empire Ears iems.
    The Bravado is a simple 2 driver “entry level” iem -that is a understatement if I have ever heard one. It consists of a proprietary sub woofer and a single ba driver to handle the highs/mids. it has a sturdy 2 pic connection that keeps the cable firmly in place . They were perfectly sized with low weight so that they don’t try to pull out of the ear. They come with a decent assortment of tips -liked the Final Audio E tips that were provided but also thourpughly enjoyed the Comply tips - bring out the true beast of the little phomes.

    The Sound:
    First and foremost with the Bravado is the bass. Deep, penetrating with a chest rattling thump. The bass is boosted but controls well on well recorded materials. It will plumb the depths of every bit of bass that is thrown at them and a kick drum can be felt in the sternum, just like being second row in front of a bass cabinet. Being a dynamic driver, it is not the fastest decaying bass but with well recorded jazz acoustic double bass you would swear that you were listening to a very well extended ba driver. Some daps may create a wooly wild sound and we will discuss that later. These with the Comply tips actually have a better mid bass hit than do my belt bed Vegas. That tells you how well they scale up. The detail in the bass was very good , maybe not as deep as the the U12 but very impressive .

    How do I explain the mids? They are not recessed they are not forward. They seem to be very neutral with great body. They are a little warm , which provides beautiful female and male voices. Upper mids are a little smooth, guitars have great bite ma every natural sounding without being overly aggressive. Very nicely done and a perfect backdrop to the bass without being affected or hidden by it. The mids have nicely detailed with great texture that made me smile every time I listened to them.

    The highs are slightly subdued , they are present and extend decently well for a shared ba driver. They are just a row or 2 back on the stage. These will never be fatiguing or sibilant. They are not aggressive. They are present but they stand back and set the background for the bass and mids. Tips and cables can significantly affect this aspect of the sound and will be discussed later.

    The Bravado do a very good job with spatial cues and details for their price point. They have great side to side lateral width , well outside the head . The depth of the stage is decent , not totl but not bad at all. And the heights was a surprise thinking that I would get a flat 2 dimensional stage , but I did get a very nice 3D stage . The instruments and vocals are nicely separated and layered, there again not the be all end all but very convincing and competetive with much more expensive iems.

    Cable pairings:
    Standard Ares Ii- punchy quick bass with slam and texture. Mids alluring and smooth and laid back highs with good outside the head soundstage.

    Areas II+. - more warmth l bass hit harder but a little slower and mid bass can becoming over whelming with some music and daps. Mids are Als warmer and have more body giving vocals even more presence. Highs and soundstage did not seem to be affected noticably.

    Thor II. - tames the mid bass slam slightly , providing even more detail to the sub bass. Quicker decay providing better details . Vocals / mids not as lush but still slightly north of neutral with plenty of detail and body. Highs come a row up and are more noticable. Found a better all around soundstage , with an expansion in all directions and a little better layering and separation.

    Eros II - slightly less mid bass slam but better bass definition and quickness. Mids may be a half raw closer and more presence. Highs still slightly laid back, and overall same soundstage as ares .

    Silver cables seem to be the ideal cable for the Bravados, providing better bass detail while still having plenty of slam. Bri gs more detail out overall and slightly better separation in the stage. Barbados scale up nicely with good cables.

    These come with the Final Audio E tips and they seem to be an ideal solution, With the standard cables my favored comply provide too much slam and bottom end for most people - I am not included in that group - but provide a very dark black background for the mids to spring up out of. The Final Audio tone down the bass slightly and balance the signature somewhat without losing detail like I sometimes find with non foam tips.

    iBasso DX208: great bass, slam to your toes, slightly subdued mids becuase of th incredible mid bass slam and bloom. Highs little better than most choices tho. Incredible extensions on top and bottom. Very detailed and almost holographic soundstage. Very good combination especially with jazz, rock maybe a little over the top at times.

    iBasso DX204: even better sub bass definition, with great extension, speed and control. Mid bass slam brought down just a notch , bringing more detail to he lower mids. Highs best of any dap I used. Holographic soundstage. The amp4 is seen as a neutral amp in most case and some find it boring but his combination was an instant smile every time I used it - and that was most of the time . Best of all worlds and the u.timate combo with the Thor II cable. Knocked me to heaven with every type of music I listened to wth this combo.

    AK 70 MKII : bass brought down a notch and sound more balanced overall. Miss a little slam with this combo but still very musical and fun. Could listen to this combo and be happy all the time , tends to be a very fun sound , maybe missing th least bit of detail but sometimes you don’t need to analyze, you just want to smile and have fun.

    Opus#1S : seemed good with rock, but not so much with other music. Too warm and with less detail . Not a bad sound or a loser at all, just not my preferred with the Bravado’s.

    CA Polaris : Polaris have good bass but can’t reach the depth or detail of the Bravado or the mid bass slam. The mids are different with the Polaris slightly leaner gives no vocals an edge on the Bravado to me. Polaris has more high end energy which can be more fatiguing after long term listening and a little more forward. Soundstage seem slightly wider and deeper on the Bravado.

    IMR R1: similar depth and detail but with slightly more mid bass slam on the Bravado. More detail, texture and control with the Bravado, but not by much. Mids are a draw with both being smooth and luscious, defintx it has some of the widest of any iem I have tried.

    U12: not a fair comparison -radically different price points - but the Bravado holds it owns. It may lack a little in depth and is a little wooly -looses some control -compared to the mighty ba bass of the U12 - I keep those because they can showcases bas slimes that no other iem can do adequately. He mids are better on the Bravado’s, vocals are more present and life like - the one fault I have had with the U12t is my perceived laid back mids. Highs are slightly more elevated on the U12 but more recessed to,my ears. And the U12 have a slightly bigger soundstage. Surprising how a “ cheap”little budget iems with 2drivers can even be on the same playing field as this 12 driver beast.

    Empire Ears has withdrawn from the driver wars and provided the answer to some unasked questions : can a co'pany survive and thrive with good designs without high driver counts. The answer is not yes but HELL Yeah you can. This entry level Bravado is very good, checking off all the boxes for me - bass heaven, very life like and accurate mids with a good top end all with a convincingly real,soundstage. A great Cable sim provided and the black body with gold EE symbols is sexy -if you are into that kind of thing . All at a great price. The only problem is these are never in stock and you have to wait a while for them. But boy is the wait worth it. So much fun and the team at EE is great -friendly, helpful, and very knowledgebale . For my wallet I hope they don’t introduce too much new stuff. My pnatoms will. W here Friday and I can’t wait for the weekend bliss.
      Devon Higgins and Drunkenmunkey like this.
    1. Sebastien Chiu
      Nice review Rob! Makes me even more excited to listen to my pair I picked up when they come in on Friday, and compare them to the Polaris + E.S.R. (when Devon send me a unit to demo.)
      Sebastien Chiu, Aug 16, 2018
      rhester likes this.
    2. rhester
      Bravado was my daily iem. It provided many exceptional moments of joy. ESR is a detail monster and with the right cables and dap can compete with most totl iems. Polaris was nice but I definitely preferred the sound from my Georgia home boys
      rhester, Aug 16, 2018
  8. Wiljen
    Bravado, not just bragging, it backs it up.
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Aug 12, 2018
    Pros - Extremely good bass. Attack and decay are better than expected. Great signature for Rock and EDM.
    Cons - Mids are recessed, cable adaptors cut in and out.
    First off, a heartfelt thank you to Devon and the Empire Ears crew for entrusting me with both the Bravado and the ESR as part of the review tour. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with both and look forward to trying additional members of the new product lines.


    The outer package is a side opening pressboard box done in flat black with a silver Empire Ears logo on the top and the Name emblazoned on the flap. While not particularly obnoxious, I will say that Empire missed no opportunity to brand absolutely everything in the package. Inside the box is first a cardstock quick start guide again emblazoned with the large wings. Under that a large black drawstring cloth bag also with large silver logo. Under that, the hard case. The hard case has an aluminum inset in the lid with the logo, branding, and model designation written in black. The interior of the hard case is well thought out with protective compartments for each earpiece and a larger compartment for storing the cable and a small compartment for the cleaning tool at the end opposite the earpiece compartments. Under the hard case are a smaller cloth bag and a set of cleaning clothes. (Also in matching black). Honestly, if each piece was seen independently, the branding is tasteful and not overstated. When taken in all at once during the unboxing process, it can get a bit overwhelming as the cleaning tool was the only component that I did not find an Empire logo or branding on.

    box1.jpg interior2.jpg interior3.jpg interior4.jpg interior1.jpg


    As previously mentioned, the package comes with a good assortment of bags, boxes, and wipes, but the tips, cable accessories etc… were all shipped separately. This may be a tour thing or it may be that with the arrival of two sets of IEMS that the shared items were not duplicated so were sent outside the packages. Accessories include the previously mentioned hard case, large cloth bag (that the hard case fits in) small cloth bag, cleaning wipes, and tip cleaner, in addition to Final Audio Type E tips, an Effect Audio 4.4 to 2.5 Balanced adapter, a 2.5mm balanced to 3.5 Single-ended adapter, and a package of alcohol cleansing wipes. A cardstock page with details of the ESR and Bravado was provided as well and since both models are included, I would assume that item was specifically for the tour and not a standard item shipped with retail purchases.

    Overall the kit is fairly complete although a couple additional tip options (Comply, spin-fits) would be welcomed as none of the provided tips was a perfect fit for my ears. (more later).

    accessories1.jpg full kit.jpg


    The IEMs themselves are a deep gloss black with a subtle Empire logo on the faceplate and the model and serial number written on the underside of the earpiece. Build quality is fantastic as seams are blended so well as to be difficult to detect without magnification. The bi-pin connector is so well fitted that was the color not slightly different it would effectively look like it was one solid part. Had I not previously been told the shell was a high impact plastic, I would have thought they were made of ceramic as the polish is that good and the seams that invisible. Overall, a masterful job. The only difference in the ESR and bravado in the shells is the number of ports in the nozzle as the Bravado sports 2 ports while the ESR has 3.

    earpieces4.jpg right ear.jpg right ear2.jpg

    Both models were supplied with Effect Audio cables which have a sterling reputation for performance at with a retail of $150 for the cable alone, they should indeed perform well. The cable itself is thicker than some but still very pliable and microphonics were kept to a minimum as the earhooks on the cables were effective in preventing cable weight from transferring to the earpieces themselves. My complaints with the cables center around two items. First, nowhere on the length of either cable exists any strain relief. Not at the jack, the splitter, or the earpieces. For a cable in this price range, I expected that they are designed in a way assure longevity. I am probably harder on my iems than some as I wear them almost constantly during the work day and if purchasing the Bravado or ESR for my personal collection (Which I intend to on the Bravado) I will purchase a different cable that I feel offers better longevity.

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    The Second issue is the adaptors. Quite simply, they do not work well and should be avoided. I had numerous cut-outs while using either of the adapters and slightly twisting the connector in the adaptor would cause the channel to come back but at the expense of clicks or pops in the sound while moving the connector. If you need two different cables for use with different DAPs or amplifiers, I would strongly suggest you forego the adaptors and buy additional cables. I used a Norne Audio 3.5 Single Ended to bi-pin cable to do my single ended testing once I realized the adaptor could not be made usable.


    The earpiece is on the large side but is deceptive in that it weighs very little. They sat in my ear without trouble and the earhook on the cable makes them feel weightless. Isolation is only average as the bulk of the earpiece sits well behind the ear canal. I did have some trouble finding a set of tips that both fit my ear and were comfortable. The large tips were too large to wear comfortably for extended periods while the mediums were just small enough to lose seal when I moved. The nozzles are standard sized so a quick search of my tips yielded several pairs that worked and I ended up settling on comply foams as they offered the best combination of comfort and seal. They likely tamed the treble just a bit but in testing with large spin-fits, I found that my observations held consistent so I do not think tip rolling dramatically influenced my listening experience.


    Lows - The Bravado has taken sub-bass to a new level. The W9 driver provides an absolutely visceral experience that can only be compared to the first time you felt the sub-bass at a THX theater. By encapsulating the dynamic driver, Empire has managed to combine the best features of a dynamic (Slam and depth of extension) with the best features of a BA (Attack and decay) and created a very crisp and clean sound but with an impact not normally seen without becoming muddy. Mid-bass is heightened and gives the overall sound a bit of warmth without overwhelming the details.

    Mids – lower mids are behind the rest of the signature and mids, in general, are probably the low point of the Bravado. Detail level is good but not great (See ESR for that). There is some minor bass-bleed at times leading to a further warming of the signature.

    Highs – The Bravado is very treble forward which can be a bit harsh if the track tends that way. Cymbals were reproduced well and female vocals benefit from the extra energy in the lower treble. Flute and upper strings can get a bit strident at times and I found that when listening to tracks like Hunting Girl (Jethro Tull) a slight decrease in EQ of the 7-9kHz range made a much more listenable signature. I did find this to be very track dependent and the EQ was not needed on fully 80% of my review materials so it may well mean the tracks that exhibit the harsh treble was mastered a bit too hot at the outset.

    Stage – Soundstage is wider than deep with a reasonable sense of height. Overall not exceptionally large, but not overly crowded and separation is fantastic. Layering is better than expected and large orchestral pieces are better rendered than expected by a two-driver arrangement.



    Empire refers to the Bravado as their “Entry level” iem. To put this in proper perspective, the Ford GT is an entry level super-car. While the GT lacks the subtleties and refinement of the Ferrari Portofino, the pure power is there and given the right driver, the GT can occasionally outrun its more refined counterpart. The Bravado is the Ford GT of the Empire stable and while it may lack the finesse of the Legend X or even the ESR, the Bravado is a far cry from the headphones that came with your smartphone.


    I will be the first to say that while I enjoy sub-bass, I am not a bass head and usually prefer a balanced signature. I expected the ESR to be my cup of tea and the Bravado to be an also-ran. Having listened to both for a week, I can say that despite the shortcomings with the Bravado’s mids, there is something hypnotic about them. For Classic rock and Blues Rock, they are just about as good as I have heard. The detail level falls a bit short for large orchestral pieces and I can’t recommend them for choral arrangements as the signature doesn’t lend itself to those genres, but I suspect that was never the target the Empire clan was shooting for. With the vast majority of current music being in the hip-hop, rock, and pop flavors, the Bravado has plenty of market to work with and will find a home with lots of listeners. If most of what you listen to is rock, metal, hip-hop or EDM, the Bravado deserves your attention. Yes, it is costly, but it just might be the end-game in-ear you’ve been looking for.


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      KopaneDePooj and Devon Higgins like this.
  9. Army-Firedawg
    Should not be thought of as an "entry" product.
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Aug 7, 2018
    Pros - Very dynamic and revealing, fun sound, build, strong isolation
    Cons - large frame (everyone might not be able to wear them), 2.5mm-3.5mm adapter often didn't have good contact,
    It’s incredible how fast companies will phase in and out not just products, but entire lineups. Way back when I first started doing reviews Empire Ears (then still under the name Earwerkz) contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their newest product offerings in not only their new product lineup but also under their new Empire Ears name. Fast forward to today and the Olympus lineup is all but extinct, minus the Spartan and Zeus-XR now referred to as the “legacy series.” So to say I’ve been interested to hear all the changes my Empire Ears family has implemented since I purchased my Hermes VI all those many moons ago would be an understatement. Alright Bravado, why don’t I show the world what you’ve shown to me during my time with you?

    A little about me

    I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.

    I'm a firefighter for both the civilian and military sector and the cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.

    My interests/hobbies are powerlifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.

    Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.

    My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.

    Equipment used at least some point during the review


    -LG V20/HP Pavilion

    -Playing Pandora, YouTube, and various format personal music


    I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.

    The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.

    The Opening Experience

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    *EDIT* Your iem's will NOT come with tips already attached to them, this was an oversight on my part.

    Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience

    Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.

    As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’

    This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this products introduced itself shall we?

    The Bravado and Empire Studio Reference (ESR) came together so I will copy and paste this section on both reviews.

    The c/iems from Empire Ears, from my Hermes VI so long ago to those of today I watch on YouTube, have remained consistent in their well thought out and delivered impressions. To start with, you’re given a solid black box with only the Empire Ears logo printed on the front. As you fold the treasure chest back, you’re greeted with a large, Empire Ears branded, carrying pouch that you can put everything inside the chest inside, the warranty and instruction manual, an Empire Ears branded cleaning silk like material cloth, a smaller carrying pouch that doesn’t fit more than the iems themselves, and lastly the Empire Ears plated with a custom logo of the buyers choosing hard case. As you open the super protective hard case you’ve the Empire Ears Bravado iems equipped standard with the Effect Audio Ares II cable (terminated in buyers choice {3.5mm unbalanced, 2.5mm balanced, 4.4mm balanced}), and an ear wax cleaning tool.

    Looking at the Bravado itself, the only external difference I could see, is that the horn has 2 vent ports instead of the 3 on the ESR. The shell design has remained the same from the Olympus lineup that I did a complete impression of way back when which is rather on the large side. Now, for products like their Zeus, which has 14 drivers, this is understandable, but for all of them, I think it’s rather large. The model sent to me is solid black with the “EE” logo in gold print but the buyer has an almost limitless customization ability and, at least from my personal experience and those who I’ve spoken with, the people working there are amazingly friendly and go above and beyond to make the buyer truly happy.

    This, is what I wish more companies would be like. I’ve yet to have the pleasure of shaking Jack’s or any of his crew’s hand but I’d imaging it’d be as pride filled as these products came.


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    The construction of the Bravado and ESR iem, like the unboxing, is exactly the same so this section will also be mimicked between my 2 reviews.

    I went a little too far in my unboxing and talked about the construction a little too much with its frame size and design but oh well I’ll just continue here. The frame itself is made of entirely standard plastic so nothing special there. The horn is the standard iem size (I do not know the exact measurement but it’s the size I see on the majority of iems) so for those who use aftermarket tips you’ll likely be able to use them with the all Empire Ears universal products. The cable is also DETACHABLE, which ,as I say in all my reviews and will continue to, is something that I feel should be standard. Though the iem is made from plastic I’m completely confident that it’s a very well built product. I can, sadly, personally attest from dropping my Hermes VI’s that they can handle a good size drop without even scratching (at least in my lucky case [I do NOT advise testing this yourself]). On the inside of the iem you’ve the product name printed along with, what I would assume to be, a serial number or a personal iem identification number.

    The cable is beautifully made and feels as premium as it looks, which it should for it is a $150 cable if bought separately, and is made, according to the Effect Audio website, from 26 AWG UPOCC Litz Copper. Something that I’ve REALLY liked about them is that, at least to my ears, they don’t have any microphonics. It doesn’t matter if I’m just sitting or walking around, I haven’t heard any cable feedback from it brushing against my clothes. Now, an issue I did have is not in the cable itself but in the 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor from Effect Audio that Empire Ears included in the tour. The majority of the time the signal was nice and clean, but occasionally, for the only reason I can conclude is it isn’t making a completely solid connection the whole time, the left side will go out until I tap the adaptor. Nothing groundbreaking, and a very quick and easy fix but for something that costs SEVENTY DOLLARS, I feel this shouldn’t exist.

    Overall the build quality of the iem is standard but also sturdy. They’re very lightweight but very large. Assuming you take proper care of these, they should last you for several years to come. My personal Empire Ears ciems have well over a thousand hours listening time from the almost 3 years time with them and they’re showing no sign of slowing down as I doubt yours will. Before I finish this section I do need to express some concern that I’ve found. Because the frame is so large, people with smaller ears (and/or ear canals) may not be able to wear this iem in either its universal or custom variant. I recommend you contact Empire Ears for help with this if you’ve smaller ears and have concerns.


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    Because the Bravado and ESR iem share the exact same framework, their comfort levels are also exactly the same. So, like my previous 3 sections, this section will be copied between this and the ESR review.

    Once you get past the large framework of the iem, I personally find them no different than any other. They’re deceptively lightweight so I forget they’re even in my ear. Actually, that’s likely because the only contact they have with my ear is the horn and corresponding tip. So laying on your side with these is 100% out of the question. But in terms of long term listening durations, I’ve personally gone in excess of 3+ hours with these in listening in one session and have absolutely zero comfort issues or felt the need to readjust them (not that I can really adjust something that’s only making contact with my ear canal anyways). They do isolate VERY well. If you’re wanting to just listen to your music and don’t want to hear what’s going on around you them you’ll probably find yourself very happy with these (and I just used the default tips that came with these).

    To conclude my thoughts on the comfort of these iems, if I’m listening to them in a position that doesn’t involve my side then I’ve not had any issues with them. I do have concerns with those with smaller ears not being able to listen to them but in the same sentence they wouldn’t have any comfort issues because they can’t get them in their ears.


    Haha, finally, there’ll be no copy and paste here. The Bravado and Empire Studio Reference (ESR) iem’s do NOT share the same sound, so I will continue with an individual analogy.

    The Empire Ears Bavado has truly impressive seperational abilities. Though some may not like it due to the very heavy left ear bias, the song “Daddy Sang Bass” by Johnny Cash does a fantastic job showing what I’m talking about. For an iem it’s extremely rare for the sound to not be in my head, but with the Bravado Johnny’s voice, as well as his backup singers, sound very spatially outwards. Everything has its place in this iem and I really respect that level of control. Though the Bravado is the entry level model in their X series lineup it’s by no means a push over. As I’m writing this review the song “Clocktown” by Theophany from the Legend Of Zelda Majora’s Mask album came up in rotation and my goodness does the Bravado to a great job and putting my in the song. Though the entire piece will show you what I’m talking about the first 30 seconds showcase it the best.

    The imagine, like the separation mentioned above, is phenomenal. The overall neutral tonality of the Bravado makes everything sound very natural and realistic without coloring it incorrectly. Before I link a song, I do want to talk about the soundstage. Though the soundstage isn’t bad, at all, it definitely doesn’t wow me, it really just lines up with what the majority of people expect with they put earphones in. The separation allows one to easily discern individual instruments and voices but things don’t sound as far away as they could (with respect to other iems I’ve heard around this price range). In the flashmob piece (sorry, YouTube only) “Ode To Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th symphony conducted by Banco Sabadell, you can very easily discern individual conversations and instruments but there’s a clock tower ringing well away from where the piece is being performed (you can see it), but it doesn’t sound that far away.

    I guess I’ve talked about the whole things a bit much, so please allow me to now talk about the more individual aspects of the Empire Ears Bravado so that hopefully I can show you in better detail how I find it sounds.


    The treble, like the bass, I would say is north of neutral (perhaps slightly more than the bass is). When listening to the piece “A Moon Filled Sky” by unknown the violin sounds a little sharper than I’m used to it but not so much that it’s harsh or even sounds unrealistic. Quite the opposite actually. The violin sounds focused on just slightly and the resonance is full of energy and vitality I really liked it. It’s another violin focused piece (I really like listening to the violin) but it really hits home the treble sparkle of the Empire Ears Bravado. Regardless if you’re listening to this on the Bravado or anything, please enjoy. Saint Saens Introduction And Rondo Capriccioso Op.28


    I find the vocals to be very neutral and accurate on the Bravado. I admittedly thought that they would be kinda subdued but nope. I think they’re quite flat. When listening to either male or female vocals, my ears couldn’t hear any type of bias present. I do think that in some tracks the bass does go beyond its bounds though. “Budapest” by Ezra is a great example of this.


    The Empire Ears Bravado is the first iem, at least from memory off the top of my head, that I’ve listened to that combines the punch of an an actual subwoofer and the finesse control of a well tuned balanced armature. The bass on the Bravado is impressively deep but yet very controlled for the most part (as mentioned above I do think they’ll occasionally over step their bounds). They’re not bass heavy but I would put them just north of neutral. I think they’ve a very full sounding bass that, at least for me, have left no desire for more. I’ve found 2 songs that I think do a really good job at showcasing the bass and sub bass capabilities of the Bravado. The first is a song “Bad” by Wale I stole from fellow Head-Fi’er dailydoseofdaly, but it has a consistent and deep bass punch throughout the song. The second, “Resource” by Suzka 870 (no youtube link for this one I could find) is a good sub bass track



    My ending thoughts on the Empire Ears Bravado iem is that it’s a solid level iem thats “entry level” title doesn’t do justice by. It’s imaging and separation abilities are on par with iems, and heck even some full size headphones, costing much more. They are very large which I do see being a problem for some but they are lightweight enough that, for those able to wear them, I don’t think will be much of an issue.

    Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Army-Firedawg
      @Maelob, IF you have a large enough ear as to where these will make solid contact with your conch and utilize some sweat resistant ear tips, then I personally see no issue with it. Just try and keep sweat from getting directly into the ports.
      Army-Firedawg, Aug 9, 2018
    3. ehjie
      I can imagine the physical bulk similar to my Kickers. They bulge out of the ear, but invisible in terms of weight, I forget them they're there. Thanks for the impressions, @Army-Firedawg ...
      ehjie, Aug 12, 2018
    4. timorinolee
      @Army-Firedawg, hey man love your review, I actually bought a Hermes because of it, just wondering, what are your thoughts compared to it?
      timorinolee, Aug 13, 2018


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